Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Things First: Hudson's on First Reviewed

          Located in the heart of Duncan in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, Hudson's on First is one of Duncan's newest restaurants to open its doors at the tail end of 2012. Owned and operated by husband and wife duo Chef Daniel and Andrea Hudson.

          When you pull up, it's impossible not to be impressed with the beauty of the freshly renovated heritage house and lush green garden and grass entrance courtyard. As you enter, you are greeted with the gorgeous antique hardwood floors, original mouldings and other sights, sounds and smells that somehow relax and excite the senses at the same time. Within moments of entering patrons are welcomed by staff that you can tell not only are happy to be here, but seem to have made it their personal goal to make each and every person that comes in feel not like a customer or another tip, but  as the most important person in their life for the duration of your stay.

          Just to the right of the entrance foyer, as well as straight ahead, you will find 2 beautiful dining rooms, furnished with a gorgeous fireplace, antique stained glass and eye catching art pieces. But what drew my attention this visit was the "steam-punk" inspired lounge to my left. I was led to my ridiculously comfortable leather and suede chair at my art nouveau-esc table and started to peruse the hand picked wine and ale list, featuring spirits both imported and domestic, as well as a wonderful selection of wines made here in the Cowichan Valley. But I'm a sucker for a good English ale... So a Hobgoblin it was.

          Looking at the menu list of fine french and english cuisine featuring a good selection of starters and entrees made of local and organic ingredients, I went with the dinner parfait to get my pallet going, and to follow that up, how could I turn down the culinary pièce de rèsistance, a dish that makes some chefs shake and sweat at the mear mention of it, as its one of the hardest entrees to master. The often attempted, the awe-inspiring... Beef Wellington!

          Not waiting long, I was approached by my server, and placed in front of me was a plate of brioche, wrapped in white linen and the parfait I had ordered. This dish was more eye-catching than the colourful art on the walls, it was art itself. A beautiful liver parfait, smooth as silk and flavourful and fragrant beyond any I have ever tried before, topped with jellied port wine and micro greens, it was a spiritual experience to say the least. I have never been the biggest fan of liver or any of its culinary derivatives, but wow... I will say that chef Hudson has renewed my faith in liver and its ability to bring a smile to my lips.

          Ignoring proper social protocol, when the dish had been taken away, picked utterly clean might I add, I had to pull out a pad and pen to start writing immediately. I didn't have long to write as I was approached with the bane of many a restaurant, the tenderloin terror itself, my "welly" ordered medium rare. You see, the trick with the Wellington is that perfecting it so difficult because you can't go on visual queues on if it is done or not, the only thing you can do as a chef is rely on your experience and pray as you cut into the Wellington. But back to mine! It was perfect in every way, and I mean perfect. Golden brown, perfectly medium rare, seasoned immaculately... This was like no Wellington I have ever had before. Words cannot express how amazing it was, not by a long shot.

          The desert menu was brought to me once my plates were cleared, though I had room for nothing more, I was still curious. In house made ice cream, mousse whose recipe originates from a three Michelin star restaurant, traditional baked apple tartan and more... Each menu was designed to compliment the next it seems, nothing seeming out of place. The setting, the atmosphere, the food and drinks, it all came together into a beautiful, well thought out and built experience. You can tell a lot of thought and creative designing went into every aspect of  Hudson's, and all that hardworking has paid off.

          I know I didn't get right into the nitty gritty of every detail, but that's not what this is, I'm no food critic. This is a way for getting readers interested and aware of what this beautiful island has to offer, and if a restaurant, wine, event or anything else doesn't impress me, I will be sure to mention it without pulling any punches. I'm not overly nice in the way of going out of my way to just focus on the positive things I find, so when I say perfection has been achieved at Hudson's on First, I mean it. As i mentioned, I'm no food critic, but a food lover and a culinary professional, and I'm not doing this to make friends, but to show everyone out there what this beautiful island has to offer.

          In closing, I would recommend Hudson's to everyone. Brunch, luncheons, dinner, drinks with friends, special events, you name it. It's setting and atmosphere is brilliant, relaxing and beautiful. The food is rich, fresh and made to order, no prepackaged  junk that has found it's way into far too many kitchens. If you find yourself in the Cowichan Valley at any point, I cant help but find myself repeating that you need to stop in and try Chef Hudson's culinary masterpieces, you will be glad you did.

Happy Eating!

Adam Michelson


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